Drowning in the river

Wow. I’m stunned. My worst online session ever this morning, by far. Just got brutalized. 3 $3-6 tables, and managed to lose on all 3. A total of 337 in a 1.5 hour session (4.89 hours combined)! I didn’t think I was capable of losing this much at the $3-6 level. I’m going to take a walk through the poker tracker database and see what happened. I seem to remember getting rivered over and over again, but let’s see if that’s true:

Table 1: -131
1. -18 when my AJd is beaten by 88, and I go to the river drawing to the wheel. Bad play.
2. +40 when my AQ hits a turn on the river
3. -21 when my JJ loses to a guy who flopped two tens with JT
4. -15 on a missed nut 4 flush
5. +54 when my pocket tens hold up
6. -21 on a missed nut 4 flush
7. -27 when my flopped pair of Aces goes down to a BB limper who flopped two 3s with T3o.
Ugh this is depressing. I guess it was a little bit of luck combined with a little bit of bad play, but losing 14 big bets per hour is just awful. Time for another beer.

Table 2: -177
1. -24 when my flopped top pair (queens) goes down to pocket aces
2. +32 flopping a set of 9s
3. -21 when my 9s get killed by Q7o when two queens flop (why didn’t I fold here??)
4. +41 when my QJ catches a Jack on the turn (why was I still in this pot with 2 overcards? Ok, the pot was pretty big, I guess this is OK)
5. -18 on a missed open ended straight
6. -18 when my flopped pair of Aces goes down to a flopped straight
7. -21 when my JJ overpair goes down to a set of nines
And the beats go on…

On the third table I managed to lose just $5. Amazing.

Ok so the river didn’t kill me after all, but it certainly didn’t help. I remember checking my statistics at one point and finding out that I’d seen 30% of flops with a 6% winning percentage. 6% Just horrible. When you are running bad, you’re running bad. I guess I have to learn to tighten up when I’m running bad. I get into trouble in those tables with no pre-flop raising and 4 or 5 players seeing the flop. By then the pots are big enough to chase nearly any draw, and I guess today I didn’t hit my fair share of draws.

Anyway this was a serious blow to the bankroll, as well as the confidence level. My wife came home early from work, which probably saved me from throwing away more money. I wasn’t on tilt, but I definitely wasn’t on my “A” game. Anyway, we took a ride down the street to see “Bad Santa” at the Beverly Center mall, a huge expensive place on the West Hollywood/Beverly Hills border. What a nightmare. We spent 15 minutes trying to find a spot in the horribly designed parking structure. This put me over the edge (I hate LA!) and I did my best to make an empty plastic coke bottle explode. I hadn’t been that angry in a while, but I think LA can do that to you…

Luckily I was saved by Billy Bob Thornton. The movie was hilarious, and features about the meanest hero I can remember seeing in a movie. The movie opens with Billy Bob puking up a fifth of Ole Grandad. There was also more drinking and smoking in this movie than in Iggy’s home games. Definitely lots of low brow humor, but it was well done.

After getting home and throwing down a couple of coors lights, my spirits were back in order. I sat at a $5-10 shorthanded table, and proceeded to quickly drop $95 in 3 consecutive hands.
Hand 1: BB, one limper, SB folds. I have T5d, and flop is Qc Ad 9d. We both check the flop, and turn is a Ten. I bet out, he raises, and I call. River is another ten. I check raise, and he calls, and turns over KJ for the straight. Ouch. -45.
Hand 2: 5 player pot, my AQ misses everything and I fold on the river.
Hand 3: I loosen up and play my K3 suited because 3 players have limped in before me. 5 player pot, and flop is T Q 3, none of my suit. I call the flop bet, hoping to catch the turn (the pot was at 9 small bets at this point). And the turn is a beautiful K, and I get a checkraise in. The river is a Q, with no flush on the board, I fear the Q, and check the river through… sure enough, some clown turns over QT. I guess it would have been a bad beat if the queen hadn’t hit the river anyway… -$30.

Ok so that’s -95 in three hands, but I’m calm, I’m calm… a few beers in my system helps. I wait out the bad hands and start turning it around. I get A8, AQ, and AK three hands in a row, and pull in $109 on those three. $48 more when I catch a jack on the turn, and my KJ beats out AQ. A huge $75 win when my AK flops a king. $38 more when my Q9s flops top pair and holds. A pair of 6s holds up for $30 more. And a big blind special, my 42 suited flops 2 pair in a multiway pot (but everyone folds), $30 more. Ended up winning $66 in 40 minutes after being way down. A nice moral victory, but not much of a dent in the ailing bankroll.

The night is young. The tables are calling. You can’t beat Saturday night on Party.

Addendum: Well, I did beat party, but only for $50 on the $3-6 tables after a 1 hour session. Hey I’ll take it. More importantly, I saw an ad for Party Poker on Saturday night live. They’ve reached network tv! Bring on the fish!!!

Rushing shorthanded

First off I want to say thanks to all the blog brothers (see the links on the right) for making a boring day at work more interesting. Lots of excellent blogging going on out there.

I finally hit a nice run of cards… I’d been waiting to hit a rush for a while, and after 6 coors lights, I was ready to roll. The wife was off from work, so I was a little distracted, but managed to pull in a $20 win after a 1 hour session on 3 $3-6 tables. I guess the poker gods rewarded me for complaining about my fare with AK, as I pulled in two $45 wins with 2 AKo (I lost $6 on one AKo). And I pulled in a huge $79 win (26 big bets!) when my pocket rockets were helped by an Ace on the turn, and some poor sap held KK. Of course I managed to call most of this away with marginal hands. 2 of the 3 tables were those typical Friday night gems, where 5 or 6 see the flop and there is little preflop raising. So I had to call with my marginal hands and live with the implied odds.

Anyway, I took a little break, polished off a couple more beers, and sat down at a $5-10 shorthanded game. 15 hands later, I was up $238. I won 4 of the 15 hands:
1. QQ, flop is QK3, and the table is aggressive. I’m hoping one of the other 2 callers has AK, and the betting tells me this may be true. An Ace comes on the turn, and I miss on a check raise, but the check induces a capped fifth street. One guy had K7, another AT. Just perfect. $98 win.
2. Q9s, flop is 529, turn 2, river 6. $63 from two players, one with 33, another presumably missed his flush draw.
3. A9s, flop is AA2, and I bet the whole way, called by QQ and Q2. $73 win.
4. 87s, I play it aggressively heads up and, the 7 is top pair on the flop, and holds up for a $30 win.

That’s it. 4 hands, $238. It felt good to finally beat the shorthanded table, I have struggled there the last couple sessions, but tonight’s win puts me back positive for the shorthanded $5-10 games. It was also nice to be able to focus on one game, rather than straining my eyes to follow three tables. I really think these games put a poker player to the test, because everyone is aggressive here, and the ability to read players becomes more important. I love playing these games, but I think the best players play here, so I usually avoid them. Maybe I should change that…

Anyway, my wife wanted to go buy some Swedish Christmas drink (she’s Swedish), so I took the money and ran. Of course on the way there, I rambled on about how a poker player is measured by the way that he loses, not the way he wins. Anybody can push a winning hand. But cutting your losses when you sense your beaten is the hard part. These mindless sessions on 3 tables seem more like waiting for the rush than anything else. I’ve managed to win a small amount while not getting much in the way of cards, and I think I’m getting better at losing.

At the moment, there are 180 players waiting for the 2 $30-60 tables, and 2 of the players have been occupying a seat at each table all day. Why party doesn’t open up more tables is baffling. I guess they are easing into the world of high stakes poker. The new $200 NL tables only have 20 people waiting for the 2 new tables. I guess Party doesn’t want their flock to bust too soon, so they limit the high stakes tables… the longer the fish survive, the more money party rakes. It will be interesting to see if they add more tables… Maybe they are scared of losing players to the bigger games at UB and PokerStars.

Started “The Education of a Poker Player” by Herbert Yardley. This is old school poker. Yardley tells stories about guys who literally “bet the farm”. This is old school stuff, the first section of the book only talks about 5 card draw, jacks or better. He also shows a bit of hubris in claming that he never, in his entire lifetime, lost at 3 consecutive sittings. But he does give us a great quote about low limit poker:

“As I got farther from home I found the value of the bets smaller, the raises more frequent, and the games wilder. I fashioned my method of play after long study of each game and discovered that the smaller the stakes, the wilder the game, the easier to win.”

Mr. Yardley, I wish I could say the same.

Aces and Kings and Queens, Oh my!

Whew. WILD Thursday night at the $3-6 tables. After all was said and done, Poker Tracker tells me I ended up $27 after 5.86 hours. That’s not very many big bets per hour. But I think I played pretty well (although a little on the loose side), and a few terrible beats cut down on my winnings. The title of the blog refers to the unusual number of KK, QQ, and AK I held. You’d think I might be able to win a few pots with those, right? Ah but the fish were in school tonight…

Here’s a quick summary of what happened with these hands:
1. KK:-24 after 3 hearts flop, and I say hell with it, and bet into the two callers. Flop is J83h, and turn is 6, I bet and am called by 2 players all the way. One guy had JJ, another had 66, and I’m left with cowboys in my pocket. This was a dumb play anyway, so I deserved it.
2. KK:+76 on my biggest pot of the night, after highest card on the board is 9, and I’m called down by AK and 55. And you wonder why I can’t leave party.
3. KK:-6 when I go soft and and fold the winner after an ace flops. Winner took $39 after his J9 picked up a jack on the turn. There were 5 players seeing the flop, I figured one of them had the ace. I don’t think this is too bad of the play.

4. QQ:+6 when BB calls me and folds on my flop bet
5. QQ:+23 when maniac’s 96s flops a 6 and calls me to the river
6. QQ:+37 when the ladies hold up against maniac’s AK

7. AKo:+18 when an Ace hits on the river and the other caller folds.
8. AKo:+27 when I beat a maniac’s 22 when Ace hits on the turn
9. AKs:-33 on my favorite hand of the night. This one is great. Two maniacs behind me, I raise it up, and BB maniac reraises me. Maniac junior calls, and I cap it, knowing that these guys raise with anything. Flop is K 6 9 rainbow, and I’m sittin pretty. Maniac checks (?) and maniac junior bets out, and I’m not sure what to think, so I call, and maniac check raises. Maniac junior reraises, and I just call (ok I chickened out a little here, but I was playing 3 tables and wasn’t exactly thinking clearly). The turn is a 5, and all four suits on the board. This time they check to me, and I bet out, sure I’ve got the best hand (no check raise). The river is a 7, so the only thing I have to be worried about is a set, or the 78 for the straight. This is possible, and when maniac junior bets out, I just call, and maniac calls behind me. Maniac junior shows 76s for 2 pair on the river, and rakes the pot. Maniac had Q6 suited, and I had a bad beat story. Ye gads.
10. AKo:-9, I fold on the turn after the 3rd heart hits, and 789 is on the board.
11. AKo:-12 after the board is 777 and I bet out… I’m raised, and one player calls, so I fold. Turns out the raiser had AA and the other guy had 74. Ouch.
12. AKs:-6 when flop shows 3 clubs and 5 players are in.

Ironically, I won $121 at one table over 2 hours, and only held KK once (no QQ or AK). But in my 12 “top hands”, I ended up winning $97, even though only 6 of them held up. I guess 50% ain’t bad. But it shows you you’ve got to play more than the top hands– 380 hands means 38 orbits, so that’s $133 to the blinds. That doesn’t count the rake. Anyway, the point is my 12 top hands didn’t even pick up enough to cover the blinds. And I never held AA once.

3 tables is pretty crazy, and I don’t really like it… tough to get a read on players, and hard to determine if you made a good play or bad because you’re always moving on to another hand at another table. But it’s the most profitable thing (I think), because it’s mostly ABC, fit-or-fold poker, which doesn’t require much critical thought.

I asked Iggy (see his blog on the right, it’s one of the best) if the $15-30 games were really as juicy as they looked. He said they were, but he rightfully pointed out that collusion is very scary at that level. It’s so easy to cheat, and big money is involved, so it’s probably better to just go down to the B&M and SEE the players. Just for peace of mind alone it’s probably worth it, and the rake is very reasonable once you get up to that level. But man, oh man, those games look fun…

Amazon delivered Yardley’s “Education of a poker player” today, and I got through the first few pages. His style is a bit dry, and he seems to be a braggart, but there are some funny stories in there. My Dad told me he read this book when he was a kid, so I guess it goes way back. I’ll put up a review when I get through it.

Ok I’m running out of steam, but I’ll quickly put up my football picks in case anyone is interested.

Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens
Total Points UNDER 39.5
–Should be low scoring game… two solid defenses, and the total is up because both teams have had big scoring games for the past two weeks. I think we’re looking at 17-10 Cinci.

Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee
Indianapolis, Spread +3.5 for Game -104

Indianapolis Colts at Tennesse
Indianapolis, Money Line for Game +164
–I hedged my bet here, but I think the Colts will take this one. I don’t like Volek starting for Tenn (please please don’t let McNair start!), and Indy has impressed me every time I’ve seen them. They will be hungry after a tough loss, and I think they want this game more.

St Louis Rams at Cleveland Browns
St Louis, Spread -4 for Game -108
–Not sure why the spread is only 4 here. The Rams O is looking like the offense of old… Faulk looks healthy for the first time in a looong time, and that’s dangerous for Cleveland, who is horrible against the run. I say Faulk goes for 150 in this game and Rams win big. I may double up my bet here depending how the Sunday games go.

Ok, that’s way more than enough blogging for today. I leave you with a classic Party battle between two clowns at my $3-6 table. It was so good it distracted me from the other 2 games. I missed the first couple barbs, but needless to say it was started by a bad beat. Enjoy.

norookie2: fag
mitdata: ohhh
mitdata: what are you 10
norookie2: with your little needle XXXX
mitdata: what is your problem – why don’t you come over and suck a juicy fart out of my ass
norookie2: speaking of mature
mitdata: my girlfriend does it all the time
norookie2: she blind?
mitdata: no a model
norookie2: yeah…a plastic doll?
mitdata: I bet your some fat ass aren’t you
norookie2: or are they rubber?
mitdata: What is like being an ugly ass person
norookie2: little mit bookworm loser….
mitdata: rich too
norookie2: that’s why U’r playing 3/6?
norookie2: loser?
norookie2: rich guys play 30/60
mitdata: yea, why not people like you are easy pickens
norookie2: nh bud
mitdata: was better than yours
norookie2: long as u beat needle d i c k
mitdata: I hung in there hoping you would bet
norookie2: idiot
mitdata: I knew my pair of two would be your hand
vincecb: caty
norookie2: be?
norookie2: “-B
mitdata: ‘nh
norookie2: lol
norookie2: nh
norookie2: 59 and counting
norookie2: backwards
mitdata: only thousands where that comes from
norookie2: pathetic liar
mitdata: not at all
mitdata: why would I lie to someone as low as you
mitdata: this is play money while I wait on the next tournament to start
norookie2: which one? I’ll beat your ass there too
mitdata: what makes you think that, you have not won any hands on this table
mitdata: thought maybe you matured over the last few hands – but your still an ass
mitdata: wow
mitdata: you can’t complain about losing to a hand like that
mitdata: nh vince
vincecb: thanks
mitdata: hilarious – roookie you are down nearly 100 since you started mouthing
norookie2: and you?
norookie2: more
norookie2: I saw your buyin
mitdata: down $16 on this table
mitdata: make sure you save $55 to donate to the tourney
mitdata: hey rookie
mitdata: you have a nice Thanksgiving
norookie2: thanks……but I’m no yankee
mitdata: Oh you have to be a yankee to celebrate thanksgiving – real nice
norookie2: we’ve had ours already
norookie2: ahead of you as per usual
mitdata: yea, I am convinced you must be really ugly
mitdata: I bet he piples on my ass look better than you
norookie2: I’m happy for ya….
norookie2: a delusional state
mitdata: don’t see you in the tourny yet, maybe be will get on the same table
norookie2: crazy people have no worries
norookie2: guess you’re blind AND dumb
mitdata: by the way, have you always walked around with a di ck hanging off your forehead
norookie2: oh how clever!
norookie2: take you long to figure that one out?
mitdata: No I am serious, just wondering why you are so angry
mitdata: you get screwed over in life or what
norookie2: who says I’m angry
norookie2: I just hate whiners like you
norookie2: think you’re the only one supposed to win
mitdata: just the fact you use the word hate
mitdata: at a 10 person table
norookie2: he’s notva
norookie2: he’s not allowed?
mitdata: you were lucky enough to not be at the table at the time
mitdata: what do you mean he is not allowed
norookie2: it’s called a rush…and if you play enough holdem you’ll see them once in a while
mitdata: not shiit
mitdata: no
mitdata: XXXX your not on my table
norookie2: your?
norookie2: how about you’re
mitdata: your what
norookie2: speak English much?
norookie2: why u locking up a seat?
mitdata: to bother you
norookie2: people wanna play here
mitdata: I guess I will go – hope you have a nice day
norookie2: you’re selfish too
mitdata: not at all – donate more in a year to charity then you can even think about making – I would not call that selfish
mitdata: see you – merry christmas
norookie2: right

Two nights off: The Cooler and Confidence

The wife is off from work Tuesday and Wednesday, so it’s been two days with no poker for me. Back to the grind tomorrow night. We went and saw “The Cooler,” a movie about gambling and love with William H. Macy. If ever a movie “pulled no punches,” this one is it. Just some brutal scenes. Overall not much of a movie, but there was a fair bit of gambling, so I was happy.

One of the ideas in the movie is that Love brings luck on the tables. This theme has been explored in thousands of movies in one form or the other. The loser hero falls in love, and suddenly is transformed to winner. Is there any truth to this legend? Well, I think that love can bring confidence, and believing in oneself is a major component in being successful at anything. It brings us back to the theme that in poker or in sports, if you don’t believe you’re the best, then you’re not playing the best you can play. On the football field, there were many games where I was sick, or injured, or just not at the top of my game. And there were times when I let that affect my game– I let myself believe that because I was sick, I had an excuse to not make a big play. But these lapses were rare– I always felt that there was a little switch that I could turn on when the adrenaline hit, and I would be able to beat anyone on the defensive side of the ball. Whether or not this was true, this belief helped me to make the play– if I didn’t believe I was better than the defense, how could I beat them?

In poker, the confidence from a rush or a few great plays can put one in “the zone.” The poker zone is a place where all doubts are gone, when you are 100% sure that the guy you put on AK has AK. Whether he ends up having it or not, that confidence makes you play better. The problem in poker is that confidence is dangerous. I’ve found myself sitting at a table where every player there has clearly never read a poker book. I’ve found myself seeing more flops, thinking “I’ll outplay them after the flop,” and then wincing when my top pair loses to some guy who filled up holding 72 offsuit. There is a fine line between extracting the maximum amount of bets from a game, and playing it safe. Lee Jones tells us to play it safe. But it’s hard to resist those chips that are just waiting for us on the table.

My poker confidence is still in flux. My stats tell me I’m a solid player, averaging nearly 2 BB an hour for 100 hours. I believe I’m a solid player. But my stat classes kick in, and tell me that 100 hours is nothing. I want to be more than a “solid” player, someone only bets when they are sure their odds are heavily in their favor. It’s easy to value bet with top pair, top kicker, but what about the times when you think you can bet your Ace high for value? Hopefully with experience will come confidence. The brain is superb at pattern recognition, and we are naturally wired to learn from patterns. The key is being able to break down the hand into something that you’ve seen before, so you can apply the general principles you’ve picked up along the way.

I remember reading a study they did on a bunch of movers in Alaska. They told the movers to pack a box as they normally would (with limited space, as usual for the movers). Then they gave the problem to the mathematicians, who applied an optimal packing algorithm to the geometric shapes to be packed. Guess what? The movers packed optimally. They had learned the algorithm (or something like it) after years and years of experience.

So the bottom line is, I need to play more. Practice. Practice isn’t much fun, but when you finally make it to gameday (15-30 tables?), you’re prepared for the big game.

I guess all of this should be obvious, but it helps me to see it on paper. I have faith in our ability to learn patterns, even when the number of variables is in the thousands. Eventually we’ll put it together.

I was hoping to take one of my first stabs at poker theory about opening with middle Aces on a loose table (inspired by Sklansky’s current column on http://www.cardplayer.com, check it out), but all this pattern recognition stuff suggests I should just play it out and learn the patterns. I also want to explore the probability that if you flop second pair, your hand is the best, but I’m too tired now. Hopefully I can get to that in the future.

So train your neural networks, and believe in yourself. See you on the tables Thursday night.

Feeling the Grind

The theme of something you love turning into a grind has been running through my head for a while. This theme can basically broken down to three questions, as applicable to poker:

1. Is it possible to “master” poker, to reach a level where there are very few plays that are not “known” to you? At this point, the play becomes more algorithmic and less creative. Your heuristics for deciding whether to raise or fold are based more on memory than critical thought.
2. If it is possible, does poker become less fun at this point? Is it truly a grind?
3. How long does it take to reach this level of mastery?

I’ve been pondering these questions for a while now, and today came across a GCA post that said something like “Those who truly love the game will have a harder time making money. Those who treat it like a job will have a better chance at succeeding.”

Now I’m no GCA fan, but this hit home. After playing football for 18 years, I met several pros (or players who ended up pros) that played football only as a job. They didn’t even like the game anymore, but it was their best career option, since most of these guys had little in the way of education. I always loved the game, and played “for the love of the game.” Of course it was a grind after week 12, when your body is beat up and your legs tired, but I still loved it.

Poker is different. Tight play gets the money in most cases, and at low limit tables, one is usually better of “looking for an excuse to fold” as Lee Jones says. When you play like this, poker becomes very boring, but perhaps also becomes more profitable.

My tentative conclusion is that there is much more interesting tactical play at the higher limit games. Simple tight play won’t get the money there, and critical thinking becomes more profitable. However, at the lower levels, robotic tight play in loose games will prevail. So, I am planning on treating poker somewhat like work. If I put in the robotic tight play, I can develop some fundamental skills, and hopefully reward myself with the bankroll to play in the “big game”.

After getting my ass kicked at a shorthanded $5-10 table, I thought the above was a good plan. This table had the toughest players I’ve ever faced, and it didn’t help that I wasn’t getting any cards. I admit my shorthanded game is probably only slightly above par, but there are only so many times you can lose with AK heads up before you start giving a little blame to the cards. Anyway, I got demolished, dropping $182 in 30 minutes.

This was not good for my Thanksgiving-depleted bankroll, and I figured it was time to start the experiment. If nothing else, the beating at the shorthanded game made me happy to do some jail time as a robot at the $3-6 tables. (Side note: I have only played a couple shorthanded sessions at $5-10, but the players here seem to me the best on party collectively. The only reason to sit at this table is to test your game.)

So I sat at 3 $3-6ers, resolved to play tight, with the occasional move thrown in to spice it up. It helped that each of the 3 virtual decks was pretty much slapping me in the face, but after a 1 hour session, I found myself up $75 $62 and $82 for a total of $219. Excellent (as Mr. Burns would say), it worked! Just when my confidence is in the gutter, a wave of cards will wash over me and bring me back in. I even stole 3 or 4 pots, not an easy task at low limit.

The downside is that even if I average a whopping 3 bets an hour on all three tables, it takes 19 hours to make a grand. Is it not better to take a shot at the $15-30 games, and hope to hit 3 or 4 big hands? Of course the risk is much greater, but we’re looking at at least 40 hours to earn 1K (at 1.5 BB hour), and the most I want to put in is a couple hours a night at most. Yeah, yeah I know. 40 hours is nothing. But I’m old. A wife and a 9-5, and hopefully a book on the way. Ah well. We’ll see what happens. That’s why it’s an experiment.

I leave you with a passage from Paul Auster’s “The Music of Chance”. I think it’s a good illustration of what it takes to succeed in life. No matter what the world tells you, if you don’t have an unflinching faith in yourself as a person, life ain’t gonna be worth livin…

“At ten thirty, he switched off the television and climbed into bed with a paperback copy of Rousseau’s Confessions . . . . Just before he fell asleep, he came to the passage in which the author is standing in a forest and throwing stones at trees. If I hit that tree with this stone, Rousseau says to himself, then all will go well with my life from now on. He throws the stone and misses. That one didn’t count, he says, and so he picks up another stone and moves several yards closer to the tree. He misses again. . . . That was just the final warm-up toss, he says, it’s the next one that really counts. But just to make sure, he walks right up to the tree this time, positioning himself directly in front of the target. He is no more than a foot away from it by now, close enough to touch it with his hand. Then he lobs the stone squarely against the trunk. Success, he says to himself, I’ve done it. From this moment on, life will be better for me than ever before.”